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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA)
The upcoming Joker spinoff movie has a unique ability to make superhero fans stop in their tracks and ask: “Wait, what?” After casting Joaquin Phoenix as the title character, the latest update is that Alec Baldwin will play Thomas Wayne—although probably not a familiar version of the character.
Directed by The Hangover‘s Todd Philips, Joker is set in the 1980s with a gritty, mature tone. It’s meant to explore the Joker’s earlier years (and possibly his origin story), with a supporting cast including Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, and Deadpool 2 breakout star Zazie Beetz. Baldwin will play the wealthy doctor and Gotham philanthropist Thomas Wayne, Batman’s father and original role model. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Baldwin’s version of Thomas Wayne will be a “cheesy, tanned businessman a la 1980s Trump.” So, kind of a new look for Bruce Wayne’s childhood, which is usually portrayed with sentimental nostalgia.
Apparently, the role was first offered to Viggo Mortensen, who wasn’t interested. Given Baldwin’s recurring role as President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, it’s easy to imagine how his performance might pan out.
If we were to describe Joker with any phrase, it would be “morbidly fascinating.” The film has already attracted a serious cast of rather atypical actors for a superhero spinoff, with Martin Scorsese on board as producer. With a lower budget ($55 million) and a high likelihood of an R-rating, it seems like it’s aiming for a prestige alternative to the solidly mainstream tone of Warner Bros.’ other DC movies.
The filmmakers also have no interest in appeasing Batman fans, which is almost refreshing, in a way. Phoenix recently said he doesn’t care about fan expectations, and the film’s overall concept seems diametrically opposed to the Joker’s key appeal. As a motiveless agent of chaos, do we really need to explore the Joker’s psychological background and relationship with his mother? Didn’t The Dark Knight already dismiss that idea by having Heath Ledger’s Joker lie constantly about his backstory? Combine that with an arguably sacrilegious interpretation of the Wayne family, and you’ve got one of the most controversial DC movies in years.
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Update 3:37pm CT, Aug. 29: Baldwin has officially backed out of the Joker movie due to what he called “scheduling issues.”
“I’m sure there are 25 guys who can play that part,” Baldwin told USA Today.
Baldwin also disputed previous reports that he was playing a Donald Trump-like character in the film, taking to Twitter Wednesday morning to add some clarification.
Let me state, for the record, that I have NOT been hired to play a role in Todd Phillips’ JOKER as some Donald Trump manque.
That is not happening.
— ABFoundation (@ABFalecbaldwin) August 29, 2018
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested.